The Mystic Aquarium received a call Sunday from the Coast Guard that a local fisherman had seen a very large animal in the waters three or four miles due south of Charlestown, RI., that seemed to be in distress.
With the help of the Coast Guard, Skip Graf, Assistant Stranding Coordinator at Mystic Aquarium along with the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Disentanglement Team immediately responded and upon arrival at the location reported by the fisherman found a 600-700 pound male Leatherback turtle severely entangled in fishing nets.
A seven man Coast Guard crew was able to get Skip and his team, an Aquarium staff member Megan Priede and a trained volunteer Karl Holman right up close to the animal where they worked diligently to safely remove the many nets that were entangled around both the turtle’s neck and body. The team concluded that he had superficial abrasions around his neck and on his flippers but otherwise was uninjured. Without help, the turtle would definitely have died. After the safe removal of the nets, the Turtle swam out to sea.
Leatherback Turtles are the largest sea turtles alive today and range from 500 to 1200 pounds and up to five and half feet long. They are highly endangered and are protected by the Endangered Species Act.
Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program supports animals in need and educates the public about the marine environment and its inhabitants. The public is encouraged to call the aquarium’s 24-hour hotline at 860.572.5955 ext. 107 if they encounter a marine mammal or sea turtle in Conn., R.I. or Fishers Island, N.Y.
Mystic Aquarium is a founding member of the Northeast Region Stranding Network. This network comprised of organizations along the eastern sea coast which have facilities and trained staff to care for sick and injured animals. Marine Mammals are protected species, so only groups and facilities authorized by the National Marine Fisheries Service are permitted to handle these animals.